I recently returned from a holiday trip to my birthplace of Malaysia which included a short stopover at Singapore. Here are some random observations:
1) Laotian live-in maids are the latest ‘in thing’ in Malaysia and have to some extent taken over from Indonesian maids. In KL live in maids are so common the newer houses in some neighbourhoods are actually constructed with maid housing out the back.
2) A lot of suburbs in KL are now gated communities but unofficial semi-legal gated communities if that makes sense. This means they weren’t designated as such but houses in the area pool their resources to hire security firms which then erect bloody annoying temporary security check points all over the place. They are temporary rather than permanent check points because of their semi-legal status. Because they are semi-legal this means that the agency running them is potentially liable to a lawsuit, if for instance, someone dies because an ambulance can’t get to someone in the neighbourhood in time because of the checkpoints.
Interestingly these arrangements are completely voluntary which means there are some ‘free riders’ who haven’t contributed but benefit nonetheless (though there are social pressures on them to chip in). I think people have gone a bit overboard with this.
The arrangements result in checkpoints being dotted all over neighbourhoods (but with their location being potentially subject to change) and some areas being closed off. This a nuisance for taxis and cars which just want to drop people off. Ironically they are
usualy manned by Indian immigrant security guards who ask for your licence no, etc everytime you drive in if they don’t recognise you.
3) A lot more Malay women are wearing headscarves nowadays. The ratio
seems to be increasing and they are now the majority in KL.
4) Perhaps related – in my day the middle class elites of all races sent their children to Catholic schools which had high academic standards and were still run by priests and nuns. These schools have now been integrated into the national system which means that most instruction in these Catholic schoolds is now in Malay rather than English (as it was in my day). Supposedly academic standards have also fallen.
Nowadays the gold standard in academic rigour which middle class Chinese, even those who can’t speak a word of Mandarin like my people and were educated in the Catholic system send their children to are the Chinese parochial schools (where instruction is in Mandarin) . This is possibly not going to be a good thing for the standard of English among the younger generation of Malaysians. It’s also unclear whether these Chinese schools would be as much of a melting pot for the different races as the old priest and nun run Catholic schools (because of the Mandarin instruction) though I hear that there are even Malays who are prepared to send their children to these schools because of the higher standards.
5) One of the states in Malaysia which has a Chinese majority is my place of birth, Penang. It is now governed by the opposition DAP which in the past was related to the PAP which rules Singapore. Apparently it’s been doing well under an opposition State govt. Foreign investment is booming. I wonder how it would do if it were to secede from Malaysia like another Chinese majority island called Singapore did long ago. Incidentally I’ll have more to say about Malaysian political developments in later posts. The Opposition seems to have gone from strength to strength and the unlikely alliance between the secular leftish and predominantly Chinese DAP and the Islamist PAS seems to have held with PAS even making overtures to non-Malays now by committing to abolishing race based preferences and replacing them with government help based on genuine need.